Goldfish

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It was early. Very early. I had woken up at sunrise; watched the blinding light bulb of orange-yellow-white ascend above the hills. There had been no reason to wake up so early. There was nothing to do this whole weekend, only to feed the fish. As I walked towards the front door, I clutched the plastic bag with both hands, felt the pebbly fish food it contained. The window next to the door felt like a warning, bright and unnatural compared to the quiet shadiness of the house. I opened the door. The sound of the lock sliding gave me a shiver. A white line appeared in the wall in front of me, rapidly expanding to form a rectangle of incredible brightness while the door opened. I recoiled, blinking rapidly at the light, and stepped into the outside.

It was hot and blinding outside. By squinting painfully, I could see my surroundings. I walked into the driveway, and onto the sidewalk. The concrete was warm on my bare feet. A lawnmower was going off somewhere. I felt sweat break out on the back of my neck. Would people mind if I wore my pajamas out in the open? My feet shuffled faster and faster, until my neighbor’s front door was looming just ahead, my shaking hand fumbling to quickly unlock the door. When I walked into my neighbor’s house, the keys jingling noisily, I immediately noticed the fish tank. It was large and elaborate, but freshwater. There was no vividly colorful anemone or coral lining the tank. It was made to look like a regular pond. Mud. Lily pads. Green mossy stuff. I looked around, to make sure that no one else was here. The house was silent, except for the faint burbling of the tank and the refrigerator’s humming. The fish themselves were not exotic like the beautiful saltwater fish that frequent dentists’ offices. These were plain and simple goldfish.

As I approached, the fish immediately darted away. Their bright orange tails disappeared behind aquatic foliage, scales flashing as they beat the water. I lifted the lid off the top – like the neighbor had told me to do – sprinkled a few pinches of the crumbly fish food into the water. Then I placed the lid back on top and turned around. The front door seemed foreboding. Instead of leaving, I sat down on the chair across from the fish tank. If they came back out, it would be worthwhile to see. Bubbles raced out of the machine on the side of the tank; bubbles that sped towards the sky, the unreachable sky. Once the gelatinous bubbles reached the surface of the tank, that small slit of air at the top, they ceased to exist, simply becoming a part of the air atop. The fish continued to hide in the shadows of the tank. It seemed as if they knew I was waiting for them to emerge. A predator slumped in wait on a creaky wooden chair.

They stayed hidden. Eventually I figured I should go back home, as waiting at my neighbor’s home was not particularly how I planned on spending my sad and lonely Saturday. Reluctance seized me as I slowly stretched, arising from the chair, and made my way to the front door, to the bright hot outside once again. As I closed the door behind me, I glanced once again at the tank.

Clusters of the little orange fish, specks of sunny glitter, were only just emerging.





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